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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 21, 2011 1:00pm-1:40pm EDT

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george bush was running against al gore, gore's poll ratings were much high or than bush's. but after bush appeared on oprah, she baptized him with her female audience, and his polls went up. and look what happened. in fact, chris rock kids her all the time and says you're the one who elected george w. bush. so, yes, she has immense power. >> and, in fact, george w. bush for his "decision points" just went on oprah recently to talk about it. >> it was a safe berth for him. i saw a little bit of it, and it was a very receptive audience for bush to put forward that particular book. >> generally, what's been oprah's influence on american culture? >> well, you know, oprah has been on our televisions for 25 years. so we've sort of grown up with oprah.
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she's had immense influence especially with women. that is really her target audience. she's been fabulous for books. her book club was wonderful. writers adore her, authors will kill to get on her show. i'm afraid this book is not going to make the oprah book club. [laughter] but she does have immense power in influencing people. ..
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or nancy reagan they already have legions of publicists who have been telling their story along time and i tried to get behind that pathology. to a better reality. >> what is your next topic? >> guest: i don't know. i am open for suggestions. after doing oprah winfrey, she was a biographer's dream. she gave me such a gift. it did take four years to do this book and i had to interview 850 people to get the story. it was a fabulous story. she was born or in a racist state. she has become one of the most powerful, beloved icon of our century. with the gift to be able to write their life story, i don't know how to top it right now.
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>> host: kitty kelley, oprah:autobiography earliest book. daniel rasmussen discusses his book "american uprising" at the second annual gaithersburg book festival at gaithersburg, merriman. >> gaithersburg proudly supports arts and culture and we are pleased to bring this event free of charge thanks to the support of our generous sponsors. a couple quick announcements. for the consideration of everyone here please silence any devices that make any noise. your feedback is critical in helping us to improve this event. surveys are available here at the info desk and at our web site. anyone who submits a survey will enter a random drawing for a o
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nook color. we welcome c-span's booktv and their viewers across the country. there's a time for audience questions. use the microphone so everyone can hear you. daniel rasmussen will be signing books immediately after this presentation and his books are on sale at the bonds and noble tend. i am honored to welcome daniel rasmussen to the anand giridharadas -- gaithersburg book festival. he has already achieved honors surpassing his age. tea won catherine nantuckhe wo prize and thomas oomf prius what would become "american uprising". it deals with the slave uprising in new orleans. the largest slave revolt in american history. yet very few people know about the events that transpired there. new orleans is shrouded in
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mystery and history often ignored in textbooks and idealized in cultural interaction but in the past six years alone new orleans and the mississippi river areas have been central to our most significant current events. the history of the city and surrounding areas contribute much to america as a whole. and even after its americanization remained largely european in culture. not with daniel rasmussen's book on the 1811 slave uprising we have one of the most extensive books on all little-known piece of early american history and two hundred years after the rebellion, and 150 years after the start of the civil war is even more important to take a look back and remember the people and the values for whom that war was fought. on a personal note i just graduated from the university of
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maryland with a degree in historical archaeology. i have always been fascinated by plantation archaeology and the lives of enslaved individuals and their daily methods of resistance. to read about a group of slaves and the large a group then this one was, gives a powerful insight into the power of people to overcome great repression. please welcome daniel rasmussen. [applause] >> thank you for coming. it is really wonderful to be here at the gaithersburg book festival. i grew up here and it is back to -- nice to be in the area. looking at these -- this revolt, the 150th anniversary of the start of the civil war, equally as important in my mind it is also the 200th anniversary of the war world's law the slave
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revolt which took place in new orleans 200 years ago. much attention has been lavished on the centennial of the civil war but almost none on the slave revolt despite the fact that it was the largest act of slave resistance at american history. i hope you will enjoy hearing this story and work with me to spread the story and make sure this story is in textbooks where it belongs and we no longer forget what i would argue is a central moment in our history and a moment which has much to tell us today not only about who we are as americans and how we should think about our past. i want to start this talk by focusing on haiti which might seem like an unusual place to start a talk about american history. i would argue with understanding haiti we cannot understand the history of louisiana or the south.
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when we think of haiti we think of the images you see on television of the horrible poverty and devastation from natural disasters that have taken place there burton's 1791 through the early -- through the beginning of the seventeenth century it was a beacon of hope and liberty. the time you can think of sugar as the oil of the time and he tea as the saudi arabia. the most lucrative commercial point in the world, fuelled the entire economy of france. that was driven off of slave labor in haiti. there were tens of thousands of slaves on the island. thousands of white planters who governed the island. it was a very combustible environment. starting in 1791, african slaves
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rose up and over the next 13 years they drove out the french. they defeated 70,000 french troops. the armies of napoleon bonaparte, the greatest war lord europe has ever seen, his army is defeated by slaves on the island of haiti. in 1803 they declare independence. i want to read to you a passage of the haitian declaration of independence. it is a little different from our declaration of independence but it will give some insight into the political climate of the new world especially the world of the slaves for of the new world. let us imitate those people who extending their concern into the future and dreading to leave an example of cowardice for posterity preferred to be exterminated rather than lose their place as one of the world's free people. made the french trouble when they approach our coast if not
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by the memory of the cruelty they inflicted, at least by the terrible resolution that we are about to devote to death anyone born french he would dirty with his sacrilegious territory of liberty. strong words. but i want to explain why they are strong words and focus on one word in that declaration which is the word exterminate. an unusually powerful word for a declaration of independence. i want to tell you about general roche rambo. one of his first acts being appointed general in charge of the haitian revolution was to go to cuba and there he purchased a pack of bloodhounds trained to eat human flesh. they were the size of small horses and the war against the haitian slaves can only be won by extermination and only if we kill every slave on the island can we ensure that france will return to sovereignty on that island. so he brings in these
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bloodhound's trained to eat human flesh and they help in exterminating the rebels. unfortunately for him, and the french and haitian rebels with additional dogs have terrible color vision. after eating several french soldiers he canceled the experiment. this should give you some hint that what the environment was like, the level of violence and what it meant when he said we prefer to be exterminated rather than lose our place as one of the world's free people. what does this have to do with louisiana? note:didn't that the louisiana purchase happened the same year and finally won independence. napoleon benefits fist on the table and said and sugar and dan colony. without haiti, why do i need louisiana? a backwards breadbasket. the idea of growing food in louisiana and shipping it to
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haiti, there is no point to maintaining louisiana. why would napoleon be so stupid as to sell this vast profitable land in the united states rather than keeping it for himself? the reality is without haiti there is no point and no reason to maintain control as there is in the north american continent. the haitian revolution is the reason louisiana became america. an interesting figure happens in louisiana. haiti's sugar production has fallen from 70,000 tons of sugar to 10,000 in 1798. there is a very smart man who is a french aristocrat who moved to louisiana and he said with haiti's sugar production falling surely we can grow sugar in louisiana. so he started doing that and it was of a lower quality than the
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sugar produced in haiti given there's no sugar production coming out anymore they consult on the market and get very rich. jean noelle ddesterin said cultivation must be the improvements of a century be destroyed and the great river resume its empire over a ruined field and demolished habitation. what he was saying is essentially new orleans was built on slavery. slaves built the levee and sugar plantations and the reason to move to new orleans. what if french aristocrat move to louisiana to live in the brutal sun with mosquitos and 105 degree heat and yellow fever? it was extremely profitable. this was the wild west. if you were a french planter you go to louisiana the best place
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for sugar. it costs $800 to buy a slave in louisiana and a slave produces $2,000 worth of sugar per year. that is a 30% r o i. a slave brought to the wheezy and had an average life span of seven years. you can do the math quick. you doubled your money by buying a slave and working him to death in seven years. that is the brutal economics of slavery in new orleans. and brittle profit math that we are all aware of. another planned for wrote in his diary. the how can we make any money off of sugar when we'll work our slaves 16 hours a day? the answer was to concern men and animals. there is no need for reproduction when you combine new slaves and work them to death and double your money. that drives the society and that is the reason all these men moved into new orleans to make
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their fortunes. they do it by growing sugar and the work, sugar plantation is brittle. these are eight to 12 foot high sugar stocks. you walk through those shopping with machetes and bringing them into factories in the hot louisiana heat where your churning that sugar into the sugar that you might be familiar with today. slaves on these plantations were recently brought from africa. these are not men who have grown up in louisiana. they have a not been accustomed to the system of slavery. the majority of them are basically right off the boat from africa captured in war. in effort at the time, there were wars ripping across the continent by european slave traders. most were fought not with spears or bows and arrows, these were men from birth trained to fight
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and been familiar with guns and military tactics, and brought to louisiana. and haiti existed as possible slave destinations for years. they would get the cast off. in jamaica they buy the best and take a few of the best ones. you get the best ones nobody wanted and to do you think that was? who was the most rebellious slaves? the ones who were the most untamable and would not submit easily. in addition you have the words of this revolt. the radical black republic spreading across the new world at the time. those words of john jack dess i desselin are politically aware. plantations were said to be rural and isolated and separated but they were anything but.
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every rivers of highway and every plantation is on a river and as these men when the band down doing their master's bidding weather was selling sugar in the marketplace or working on ships were transported the sugar or traveling up and down as messengers there was constant movement and exchange of ideas that extended not just from plantation to plantation but city to city and country to country so in the sugar plantations, many of whom were brought up in africa and trained in warfare meeting with this radical black republican inspired by haiti where slaves like them had defeated the most powerful empire in europe. it was a combustible time. jean noelle esterhin had recreated the exact conditions which have allowed the haitian revolt to flourish. the same sugar producing society. same rules and laws. everything is the same. they have done it without taking
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measures to protect themselves. i want to tell you a little bit about the leaders of this revolt. there is a man named charles blanc. he is interesting. born to a white father and this is not likely a consensual relationship and because of his white skin he had risen to the top of the plantation hierarchy. you have a driver and an overseer, master, overseer and the other slaves. so the drivers like a military commander. they are responsible for organizing gains of slave labor to harvest the sugar crop. they are responsible for running the factory that regulates the sugar and meet with their master every day. they are responsible for punishing slaves that disobedient for chasing of the ones that escape. man like charles in exchange for taking on the position of authority would be given nicer cabin and better food and ability to travel and privilege
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to mary. men like charles were hated by their fellow slaves. they receive as the traders of the race. men who would sell out for material comforts their fellow slaves. but charles was interesting. he was using his status as a driver not to further the system of slavery but to undermine it from within. he was in modern terminology the ultimate sweepers sold. as charles traveled up and down the river ostensibly on his master's business meeting with other slaves to talk about sugar harvest he was actually meeting with a group of african warriors, two men in particular. quaku was six feet tall with a living physical presence. he and quamina were sold in 1706. with the most powerful empire at the time and they were at this moment making a push for the
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african coast so they would have been captured and sold antislavery. those men were familiar with african military tactics because of their upbringing and as they met with charles exchange african ideas. you see the diversity of slave leadership. charles was born in louisiana to a white father speaking fresh. you have quaku and quamana and there are 11 separate leaders some of whom are haitian and some from the we vienna and others from virginia and kentucky. it is a remarkable thing that these men are coming together. it is incredibly dangerous to plot a slave revolution. the fastest way to freedom is not to participate in a slave revolt but to be trey one. as these men formed these small cells up and down the coast of the mississippi river they had to be careful not to let any one man they didn't trust in under circle and participating in the
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planning of this revolt. january of 18110-i can do you what he said in the final minutes but i will read a passage from another slave leader. that man takes a machete and stabbed fruit and said this is how i will drive its through the stomach of the whites. no doubt that violence was the central goal of this revolution. why participate in a revolt? i went to the city to kill all the whites. there was no way any black political movement could survive without that level of violence. there would not brook the survival of an independent black state within their jurisdiction. in the dark of night the rain was pouring down. charles's men burst into the
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plantation home. when you think of a plantation home you can see not this plantation but others, incredibly beautiful homes. french furniture imported from france. the fine family portraits. there were the wealthiest men in north america. he woke up with a from fright to see charles milan's trusted advisor, standing before him with a -- and acts, the translation -- plantation will transplanted into a weapon. charles afton coo drove their axes into the body of his 20-year-old son gilbert and in the heat of what happened next, i don't know exactly what happened but somehow slaves sliced three cuts into his body, starnes he would there for the rest of his life but somehow he escaped. i don't know whether it is because the slaves led by charles think that would have dead planter can do little harm
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to the rinse and the end revolution or whether they think -- whether it is that he is too fast or out run them or what it might be but somehow he escapes to live another day. that was the slaves's first mistake. the slaves break into the store house on the plantation and take out the militia uniforms that stockpiled. they assemble them in front of the plantation. kmart toward new orleans chanting freedom or death. their goal is to overthrow new orleans and establish a black republic. i want to focus on the idea of them wearing his military uniform.
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what does that mean? are saying we are real men with a mission. slaves are not people, they are animals without political existence with no rights, no claim to freedom and by putting on military uniforms, by claiming that the element of nationhood they say that our ideology is fundamentally wrong. a few plantations down, gilbert -- he sees his slave dominique bursting into his quarters just as charles burst into menlo landry's quarters hours before. but dominique is not there to kill francois but to warn him. the fastest way to freedom in slave society is to the trey revolt. will not participate in one and dominique tells him there is a
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large number of rebels slaves moving down the river pillaging farm that killing whites. francois tells dominique to travel to new orleans and ward ever won the rebels are coming to go to new orleans and take cover, get out of the way of this rebel army. he sends his wife and children to hide in the same swabs that were harbors for runaway slaves. francois makes a different decision. he does not follow his own advice. he was notorious for contempt for his slaves. he kept a slave boy named gustav as a house pet. he would make them crawl around and toss him scraps on the table. this is what other planters said about him as a you can only imagine what the slaves said about him if they had written down their description of what it was like. so the francois believing in that fundamental ideology of plantation slavery that they were not people but animals,
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instead decides to take a stand on his plantation to faced down the rebel army. when they see him he tells them turnaround and go back to your plantations and they will listen because he is their master and they will be a fan as he tells them to behave. francois does not wait long before he sees the wisps of smoke of burning plantations. for 40 years of a beat of african drums. before he is the chance of on to new orleans and freedom or death and before he sees an army of 200 black men dressed in military uniform march in formation flying flags and beating drums, it cannot have been what he expected. in those next moment, quaku lead the way into the second-floor piazza where they kill francois. gustav swings the final acts that kills francois existing
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years of patronizing treatment. you can see red shirts about 20 miles from new orleans that says in french here lies francois killed by insurgent slaves in 1811. on want to pause here to ask the question that i imagine many of you are asking. as soon as i started researching this was a question i realized without answering, the project would not mean half as much. that question is did the slave ever have a chance? our interpretation of this event takes on a different guise depending on whether we believe they did have a chance or didn't. if they didn't we should respect them and we should celebrate their willingness to fight for freedom. we should also look and say they were a bit crazy. how could they have imagined they could have beaten the american military on the sugar fields in 1811. we have to say they were brave men but not remarkably
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sophisticated men. this revolt had no chance is different than our evaluation of the slaves did have a chance. if they had a real reason to believe they might win, then our interpretation of this event is very different and would celebrate them as political visionaries. men with a sophisticated idea. had a few things happen one way or the other. this question bothered me as i did my research in the national archives and i look for any sort of military record for military forces and here was the balance of power. next to nothing a few sentences but nothing would answer this question. so i said where else can i find this? we have the ship's record.
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after a day of research i found a letter from, or john shaw a descendant of robert gould shaw. i will read from this letter. the best source we have an answer of the question did the slaves ever have a chance? , board john shaw wrote to his naval commander in washington, and he wrote that at the time in new orleans there were 40 regular troops, a fourth he called a, quote, week the attachment. he wrote i fear the whole postal exhibit of devastation, every description of property will be consumed and the country laid waste by rioters. all were on alert.
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scarcely anyone possessed a musket for protection of himself or his property. 40 troops protecting a defenseless and unarmed city whose own commander called it a week detachments. there is another layer to the story. only 40 regular troops in new orleans and this time. why are there not more men to guard this new american acquisition? i started looking into that and what i found was the best american fighting force was 100 miles away in baton rouge fighting a war with the spanish army. i am not sure anyone thinks of america fighting wars with the spanish but the reality is spain controlled florida, alabama, texas, alabama and cuba. new orleans was outside and in order for america to expand when they were doing was authorized these illegal filibusters by where a group of settlers moved into a territory and declare independence. you can look at their loans to
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our republic or this is the west for a republic. these men had done in and declared independence and the americans wrote a letter to the spanish government and said we are so upset by what happened at your armies got overthrown by this rogue west florida republican. we are going to take control to make sure security is maintained in the area so it will be american but it wasn't our fault. we wish this happened happened but guys from the west fla. republic did it. they were able to commodore large amounts of land without declaring war against the spanish. so you see just a few miles outside the city they really did have a chance to conquered new orleans and what happens next confirms my hypothesis. the american military march out of the city and come upon sleigh that 2 a m in a plantation that stand where louis armstrong international airport stands today and of command of wade hampton they prepare an attack.
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they concede the candles burning and they can smell burgess do and they lost their attack. 40 regular troops surged to the plantation to find the slaves are not there. these were men school in warfare in west african military tactics. you don't meet your enemy in open battle. you draw about and where the down and harass them and kill them. don't face them in open battle. you tricked them and lower them out and this is the strategy they've executing and americans had fallen for it right there. in other slave revolts you hear about slaves stopped to rest and we caught them and -- but the reality is here is not a sleigh is that stopped to rest that the american military. wade hampton declared we can go no further so they stopped to rest. at this point the slave army led by charles milan and quaku and
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quamana start of the most profitable farm land in north america. i told you the slaves made a mistake. they let landry will. he dragged his body down to the levee and crosses the river where no revolution has taken place and meets charles perez who is a prominent planter and charles c. wood and dying landry says he knows what to do. they cross over the river so you see the flame army marching towards new orleans and drying the military and -- american military out. they don't realize they have been flanked by this new militia which is coming down from behind. at 9:00 a.m. charles and his men see the slave army moving a forced march toward the high ground. we saw the enemy in a short distance. many mounted on foot, wrote
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charles. he sees the slave the opening drum-avoiding open that door and falling into this moment where only recently they have to face their former masters, this pack of armed planters right there on the field of battle and they are unprepared to do it. what do the slaves do? i will review a passage from a spanish spy. he rode the blacks are not intimidated and they formed themselves in a line. if you read early nineteenth century military infantry tactics books which i did. might not have had the best social life in college. they tell you to do exactly this which is to form a firing line. wait until you see the whites of your enemies eyes and then to fire. the slave to exactly the right thing. the army of 200 to 500, take their stance against their
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former masters. how they felt in those final moments. i will read you a passage from a louisiana slave who fights in the civil war 50 years later. he writes we are fighting and ask no more glorious death than to die for freedom but for our race to go back into bondage again and be hunted by dogs in the swamp and set upon and sold for gold and silver, never. gladly we would die first. smoky erupts on the battlefield of the first shots. in battle you didn't even see your enemy when the first shot went off because the gun powder discharge huge amounts of smoke. in the chaos of the battle like can't tell you what happened, whether the slaves ran out of ammunition, whether they were outflanked by the planter militia but whatever happened planters broke the slave lions and once again perhaps one of the greatest massacres in american history over the next few days the planters would kill
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100 rebels slaves, decapitate them and carry their heads to the levy where they put them on pikes. one planter said they are brought here for the sake of their heads which decorate the levy all the way up the coast. i have told they look like crows sitting on long poles. they captured charles milan and cut off his limbs and should have on birth as it -- both sides and burned alive. i think you see why this story is not taken a part in our textbooks. the image of 100 staked heads lighting of the mississippi river of dismembered corpses they will in new orleans is not one that resonates with who we think of when we think of our american past. i would argue this story is central to understanding the history of this country because without understanding the state heads and dismembered corpses you can't understand what underlies slavery or why it is these slaves worked on these
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plantations. if they did not they would face this sort of violence. so you see new orleans and this economy being built on these pike heads and the reality of slavery and this would drive the country to civil war. i would argue this story of 200 to 500 men who fought and died for their freedom his actions stand as a testament to the best ideals of this country, liberty and equality and a belief in freedom and justice, that their story should take a place in the textbook alongside other men who fought and died for freedom and we should recognize their contribution. this is an american history. these men are part of our american story and only through understanding and recognizing their contribution and what we think of as freedom could we truly understand the true history of louisiana.
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[applause] >> thank you. i would be happy to take questions. yes? come up to the microphone. [inaudible] >> i am wondering, aside from the obvious this is a very brutal and nasty story you don't feed to fourth graders, why do you think -- not necessarily deliberately but it is not advertised, not known to people. >> it was deliberately covered
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up at the time. the american governor and french planters. the -- louisiana was under consideration for statehood and the last thing william clambered wanted was they presided over the largest factor of slave resistance in american history. didn't want washington realizing how unstable new orleans was that it was living on this powder keg. there is not a strong abolitionist presence at the times and not a lot of people willing to stay up this story and make something of it. you see newspapers suppressing the story and you see essentially the complicated nature of america -- the way history has been written in america is simply that until 1945 or 1950 there were not many people interested in writing stories like this. it has only been recently that attention was focused on slavery and given that new orleans was on the outskirts, it is

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